Six games, five countries, 22,000 miles – Manchester United’s summer tour 2012 will be another money-spinning, publicity-building, sojourn for the Glazer family; whether so much time spent travelling is the right preparation for the team is another question. In either case, Ferguson’s men set sail for Durban on Monday morning, with match sharpness, open training and local press events initially on the agenda.
While the Reds’ tours of the past two summers have taken to the United States, this time Sir Alex Ferguson’s outfit will globe-trot for nearly a month – from South Africa to Germany, with stops in China and Scandinavia in between – before the opening game of the new Premier League season takes place on 18 August.
Ferguson’s side will take on some exotic opponent’s along the way, even if the overall quality is unlikely to reach the exceptional until the Reds meet Barcelona in Gothenburg in early August.
And whether you are familiar with AmaZulu’s best player, Shanghai Shenhua’s home stadium or Valerenga’s history, fear not – here’s Rant’s bluffer’s guide to the next month of summer action…
Durban – Wednesday 18 July – AmaZulu FC, Moses Mabhida Stadium
The Opposition: Founded in 1932, as Zulu Royals, AmaZulu FC finished seventh in the South African Premiership last season. It was the club’s best finish in 15 years. Captained by Zimbabwe international goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini, AmaZulu can also boast South African international Stanton Lewis, Malawi star Moses Chavula and Namibian Tangeni Shipahu among the squad. Alumni include for VfB Stuttgart and Liverpool striker, Sean Dundee. Nicknamed Amaqhawe – heroes – AmaZulu should prove a gentle opening tour game for United’s multi-millionaires.
The Manager: Roger Palmgren has made a career coaching in Africa, including a short stint in charge of the Sierra Leone national side, two years with Rwanda, and club jobs at Kwara United and Thanda Royal Zulu. Football Coach World Ranking places Palmgren a lofty 574th on its weekly chart.
The Stadium: The iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, boasting a capacity of 62,760 for the tournament, reduced to 54,000 for club matches. The 350-metre long, 105-metre span arch, inspired by the South African Flag, holds the stadium roof 106 metres above the pitch, representing we are told, a once divided nation coming together. The stadium hosted five group games, one second round game and a semi-final match during the World Cup, although bizarre FIFA protocols ensure that it was called, simply, “Durban Stadium” during the tournament.
The City: Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and the third largest city in South Africa. The port city is heavily influence by international trade, although in more recent times has become a major tourist centres because of the city’s warm subtropical climate and extensive beaches. The modern city of Durban dates to 1824, when a party of 25 men under British Lieutenant F. G. Farewell arrived from the Cape Colony and established a settlement on the northern shore of the Bay of Natal.
Cape Town – Saturday 21 July – Ajax Cape Town, Cape Town Stadium
The Opposition: Ajax Cape Town, somewhat unsurprisingly, is majority-owned by the club’s more famous Dutch namesake. ACT was formed in 1999 from the amalgamation of two Cape Town-based teams, Seven Stars and Cape Town Spurs, as Ajax expanded its worldwide network to South Africa. ACT finished ninth in the South African Premier League last season under Dutch coach Maarten Stekelenburg, while the club’s only success to date was in the Rothmans Cup in 2000. The experiment has been a mixed success though, with Steven Pienaar the only player to have graduated to ‘big’ Ajax in the club’s short history.
The Manager: 39-year-old Dutchman Stekelenburg took over at ACT in June 2011, having previously worked as head of youth development for the club, and at AFC Ajax’s youth academy back in Holland. Ranked 568 on Football Coach World Ranking, Stekelenburg is no relation to the Dutch national team goalkeeper.
The Stadium: There was no more stunning visual during the 2010 World Cup than the Cape Town Stadium at Green Point. Set just yards from the ocean, with Table Mountain as the backdrop, the BBC spent more than £2 million to base its team at the stadium two years ago. Built for the World Cup at a cost of more than £400 million, with a capacity of 64,000 – reduced to 55,000 post-tournament – Cape Town Stadium is now host to ACT, together with the occasional pop concert or South Africa international.
The City: Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa, the provincial capital of the Western Cape, and the legislative capital of the country hosting the National Parliament. Cape Town, located in the strategic port of Table Bay, was developed by the Dutch East India Company as a supply depot for Dutch ships sailing to India and the Far East. It was first established as a European settlement in April 1652.
Shanghai – Wednesday 25 July – Shanghai Shenhua, Shanghai Stadium
The Opposition: Shenhua may now boast Didier Drogba as a high-profile signing, but the side finished 11th in the Chinese Super League last season under the part-time direction of former Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka. Aside from the west London alumni, Shenhua boasts Brazilian defender Moisés, Australian Joel Griffiths and captain Yu Tao among Sergio Batista’s predominantly Chinese squad.
The Manager: Batista, the former Argentina coach, played for the national team 39 times between 1985 and 1990, including winning the 1986 World Cup and picking up a runners-up medal in the 1990 final. As a manager Batista has coached Argentinos Juniors, Nueva Chicago and the Argentina Under-20 side, before taking over La Albiceleste after the last World Cup. He was appointed Shenhua manager this summer.
The Stadium: The fixture will not take place at Shenhua’s usual 35,000-capacity Hongkou Football Stadium, but at the huge Shanghai Stadium. The stadium, which holds 80,000, was built in 1997 for the 8th National Games of the People’s Republic of China and is the third largest stadium in China after the Guangdong Olympic and the Beijing National Stadiums. The arena hosted football during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The City: Shanghai is the largest city in the People’s Republic of China, and the largest city by population on the planet with 23 million inhabitants. There are rumours, as yet unconfirmed, that Wayne Rooney has not – repeat, has not – shagged every hooker in the city. Shanghai sits at the mouth of the Yangtze River, bounded to the east by the East China Sea and has been a trading post for centuries. Shanghai grew in the 19th century as Europeans arrived to trade, while the city became popular with the British after victory over China in the first opium war in 1842. Shanghai is a popular tourist destination with historical landmarks including The Bund, City God Temple and Yuyuan Garden.
Oslo – Sunday 5 August – Valerenga, Ullevaal Stadium
The Opposition: Vålerenga Fotball is the fifth most successful clubs in the history of Norwegian football, having won the Premier League five times and the Cup on four occasions. However, the club, which celebrates its century next summer, finished seventh behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde in the Tippeligaen last season. The Bohemians last championship victory came in 2005, pipping Rosenborg to the title.
The Manager: Martin Andresen is young for a manager, even by Norwegian standards ,at just 35. Indeed, the former Norwegian international was appointed Vålerenga player-manager four years ago after signing, ostensibly as a player, from Brann. Andresen is yet to secure silverware, although led his team to Tippeligaen runners-up spot in 2010 and the Superfinalen the year previously.
The Stadium: Opened in 1926, Ullevaal Stadion is home to Vålerenga, the Norway national football team, and the Norwegian Cup Final. Seating 25,572, Ullevaal hosted FC Lyn Oslo – the club of John Obi Mikel fame – before the club’s bankruptcy, while it was also home to the UEFA Women’s Euro Final in 1987 and 1997. There are plans to increase the stadium capacity to more than 30,000, while fitting a retractable roof and artificial pitch.
The City: Founded in 1048 by King Harald III, Oslo is the capital of and largest city in Norway. Oslo is one of the most wealthy cities in Europe, hosting almost 2,000 maritime companies, together with around 10,000 workers in the sector. It is also one of the most expensive in the world, with traveling United supporters likely to suffer from astronomically high beer prices, although housing remains reasonable by European standards.
Gothenburg – Wednesday 8 August – Barcelona, Ullevi Stadium
The Opposition: Little needs to be written about Barcelona, the club which has beaten United in two recent Champions League finals. That said under new manager Tito Vilanova a new dawn has begun, with Los Culés having lost out on both Champions League and La Liga last season, with Chelsea winning in Europe and Real Madrid domestically. The usual rivals should be present in what will be one of Barça’s earliest pre-season games. United beat Barcelona in pre-season during the US tour last summer.
The Manager: Vilanova enjoyed a limited career as a player, touring some of Spain’s footballing backwaters. Indeed, success has not come automatically as a coach either, with Vilanova working his way up the ranks at Camp Nouw, first as head coach of Barcelona B, then assistant to Pep Guardiola. Vilanova was appointed Barcelona coach on a four-year contract in May.
The Stadium: The Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg plays host to more than 40,000 spectators on match-days, although has no regular football tenant. The stadium was built for the 1958 FIFA World Cup, and has hosted the 1995 World Athletics Championships, the 1983 and 1990 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup finals, 1992 UEFA Euro final, and the UEFA Cup final in 2004.
The City: Göteborg - home to six-foot blondes, Volvo, Ericsson, and a thriving maritime industry. Founded in 1621 by King Gustavus Adolphus, the city is the second largest in Sweden, lies at the mouth of the Göta Älv river, and is the largest seaport in the Nordic countries. The Gothenburg Film Festival, held every January, entertains 155,000 visitors annually, while nearby Liseberg is ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the top ten amusement parks in the world.
Hanover – Saturday 11 August – Hannover 96, AWD Arena
The Opposition: Finishing seventh in Bundesliga last season, Hanover has traditionally been one of Germany’s middle-ranked clubs, having won the Bundesliga in 1938 and 1954. The club suffered financial difficulties in both the 1970s and 1990s, relegated to the second and then third divisions a decade ago. However, Hanover bounced back from years in the doldrums to the Bundesliga only to suffer from the tragic suicide of German international goalkeeper Robert Enke in 2009. Former United youth team player Ron-Robert Zieler is the club’s goalkeeper, while Mame Biram Diouf scored six Bundesliga goals in 10 games last season.
The Manager: Mirko Slomka was no great shakes as a player, but has forged a strong managerial career since retirement. Slomka was the head coach of Schalke from 2006 to 2008, and was in charge of the club when Die Königsblauen finished second to VfB Stuttgart in 2008. He also led Schalke to semi finals of UEFA cup in year 2005–06. Slomka is a giddy 32nd on Football Coach World Ranking!
The Stadium: The 49,000-capacity AWDarena was refurbished at a cost of €82.8 million for the 2006 World Cup having been built in 1954. Originally known as Niedersachsenstadion, the stadium has carried the name of headline sponsor AWD since 2002, while it hosted games at World Cup 1974, Euro 1988, and World Cup 2006.
The City: Hanover is capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony, and was once the family seat of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain until, in 1901, the death of Queen Victoria. Hanover is home to rock bands Scorpions and Fury in the Slaughterhouse, DJ Mousse T and 2010 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Lena Meyer-Landrut. And if the musical heritage doesn’t appeal, the town in also host to CeBIT, one of the world’s largest technology trade fairs, and Schützenfest Hannover, the planet’s largest marksmen’s festival.
Summer Tour 2012 Schedule
18 Jul – AmaZulu FC, Durban, 8pm
21 Jul – Ajax Cape Town, Cape Town, 3pm
25 Jul – Shanghai Shenhua, Shanghai, 8pm
05 Aug – Valerenga, Oslo, 4pm
08 Aug – FC Barcelona, Gothenburg, 8pm
11 Aug – Hannover 96, Hanover 8.20pm
* All kick off times local
Goalkeepers: Lindegaard, Amos, Johnstone
Defenders: Ferdinand, Veseli, Vermijl, Wootton, Blackett
Midfielders: Valencia, Anderson, Carrick, Scholes, Powell, Kagawa, Bébé, Tunnicliffe, Lingard, Brady, Petrucci
Forwards: Berbatov, Chicharito, Macheda
* Euro 2012 and Olympics participants may join towards the back-end of the tour